Adolf Eichmann

26.04.2016 ( Last modified: 14.06.2016 )
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Adolf Eichmann was born on 19 March 1906 in Solingen, Germany. His family moved to Austria in 1914.

Eichmann joined the Austrian Nazi Party in 1932 and the Austrian Legion in 1933, in exile in Germany. In 1934, he became a member of the SD (Himmler’s security service) and was – together with others – put in charge of the “Jewish Question”. He was appointed head of the “Office for Jewish Emigration” in August 1938. Eichmann was transferred to the Gestapo in 1939 and occupied himself with various aspects of the “Final Solution” during the following six years.

In 1942, Eichmann took part in the Wannsee Conference in the course of which the logistics required for the realisation of the Final Solution were decided upon. During the following period, Eichmann showed an incredible bureaucratic zeal in his work, particularly where the deportation of Jews from the regions occupied by the German Reich was concerned.

Adolf Eichmann was accused of having caused the death of millions of Jews or having inflicted serious physical and mental harm on them, in the territories of the States occupied by the Axis forces, between August 1941 and May 1945.

He was further accused of being responsible, during the same period, of killings, extermination, slavery, famine and deportation of the Jewish population. From December 1939 to May 1945, Eichmann organised the deportation of Jews from various regions occupied by the German Reich.

Eichmann was also accused of war crimes. These crimes consisted of persecution, expulsion and killings that were committed during World War II against Jews belonging to the population of the occupied countries or other Axis states.

Finally, regarding the period from 1940 until the end of the war, Eichmann was accused of having been an active member of three Nazi organizations that were declared criminal by the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.

Adolf Eichmann was arrested in Argentina on 11 May 1960 by the Mossad (Israeli secret service) and transferred by force to Israel to be judged by a court.


legal procedure

Adolf Eichmann was arrested in Argentina on 11 May 1960 by the Mossad (Israeli secret service) and transferred by force to Israel to be judged by a court.

The trial was opened on 11 April 1961 in Jerusalem.

The indictment against him contained 15 counts. They were divided in 4 groups:
– crimes against the Jewish people (count 1-4)
– crimes against humanity (5-7, 9-12)
– war crimes (8)
– belonging to a hostile organisation (13-15).

Eichmann based his defence primarily on the incompetence of the tribunal to judge him, arguing that the legal base of the prosecution was created after the alleged crimes were committed. Secondly, he argued that Israel was exercising inadmissible extraterritorial authority, considering that the accused himself was Austrian, the alleged facts were committed in Germany and the arrest took place in Argentina. Therefore, he argued, Israel had no jurisdiction in his case. Finally, he resorted to the notions “crimes of the state” and “superior orders” to deny his individual responsibility. He tried to hide behind Hitler as head of state and of the Nazi government.

To establish its jurisdiction, the Jerusalem district court based its argument on the universal character of the crimes Eichmann had been accused of. Thus, it was able to exercise jurisdiction regardless of the place the crimes were committed, or the nationality of the accused or the victims, or the place of the arrest.

The Jerusalem district court came to the conclusion that Eichmann had been an important link in determining and executing the Final Solution, taking into account that he had been present at every stage of its development.

On 15 December 1961, the Jerusalem district court found Eichmann guilty on all counts and sentenced him to death.

The Supreme Court rejected his appeal on 29 May 1962.

Eichmann was executed by hanging on 31 May 1962, a few minutes before midnight.



In the Eichmann trial, 15 years after the Nuremberg trials, the question as to whether a court could judge crimes committed before the legislation criminalising them was adopted, was discussed again. In the appeal judgement, the Supreme Court stated that, not only did the ban on retroactivity not amount to a general principle of international law, but it was even unjust where particularly grave crimes were concerned, such as those Eichmann was accused of.

In the same judgment, the extraterritorial jurisdiction of a state was justified by the characters of the crimes in question. Based on the international legislation in force and on current doctrine, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the principle of universal jurisdiction for international crimes.

The court avoided discussion of the conditions of Eichmann’s arrest. The rights of the accused as an individual were not considered relevant as the question was one to be dealt with on inter-state level.

To sum up, the arrest by the Mossad in Argentina as well as the trial in Israel were justified by the nature of the crimes Adolf Eichmann was accused of, regardless of where they were committed, when they were committed and where the arrest was carried out.



After the Second World War numerous trials against war criminals and those responsible for Nazi crimes took place in Germany and other countries. It is not possible here to give an overview of all the trials. Below are the main facts concerning the major trials of war criminals at Nuremberg.


The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on 7-8 May 1945. The Allies (USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France) took over all governmental functions in Germany, instituted the Allied Control Council and divided Germany into four zones of occupation.

After the adoption of the London Charter of 8 August 1945, the Allies set up the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in order to judge the major German war criminals. Annex III of the Agreement contains the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (IMT Statute [2]).


According to Articles 1-3 of the London Charter, war criminals with offenses having no particular geographical location were to be judged by the IMT. However in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention, the principle of territoriality was to apply to the other German war criminals, with the courts of those states where crimes had been committed having the competence to try these criminals on the basis on their national laws.

Crimes within the jurisdiction of IMT:

– Crimes against peace;

– War crimes and

– Crimes against humanity (Article 6 of IMT Statute).

The IMT was composed of four judges and four substitutes who were appointed by the four Allied powers (Article 2 IMT Statute). In application of Article 13 of the IMT Statute, the Tribunal drew up its own Rules of Procedure

The IMT indicted 24 people in total. The trials took place from 14 November 1945 until 1 October 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In one case, the procedure was suspended for health reasons and in another the defendant committed suicide before his trial.


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